Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Is Not Your Rest

This is Not Your Rest

by Edward D. Griffin

"Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."–Micah ii. 10.

The land of Canaan was called a rest. "Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." It was given to Israel after their wanderings for four hundred and seventy years (from the time that Abraham left "Ur of the Chaldees"), as a permanent retreat from the world, where they might rest "under the shadow of the Almighty." But it was given on condition of their faithful obedience. That obedience they had failed to render. In the preceding verses the prophet had reproached them for their merciless oppression,–in our text he pronounces their doom. "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted" by your sins. You shall find neither contentment nor continuance here. One trouble shall succeed another, until you are swept away and removed to Babylon. Perhaps another idea may be added. Since the land is polluted and your doom is known, it is no longer lawful for you to seek a rest here. Arise and depart, for to rest in this place after you are forbidden to stay is pollution. Some have thought that the address was made to the oppressed, and was intended for a word of consolation. Arise and depart from this land of oppression: ye shall find relief in another country. Comfort your hearts, for the time of your deliverance is at hand. Tremble not at a removal to Babylon, for nothing but violence and injustice awaits you here. 

It is allowed by commentators that these words may be properly applied to the state of men in the present world. And I see not why they may not be applied in all the senses that have been mentioned. Let us expand them in the three-fold form.

First, this world would have been a rest had sin never entered it: but since it is polluted, there is neither contentment nor continuance here; neither solid happiness in the enjoyments it offers, nor an abiding city in any of its domains. It is no longer our permanent abode, but our passage to another country; our inn, but not our home.

Secondly, to attempt to rest in the creature after God has commanded us to give it up, is sinful. To rest in a connection with unrighteous men,–satisfied with a world corrupt through "divers lusts,"–is still more pollute. We are called upon to "come out from among them and be separate," and to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world." From resting in the creature, from resting in corrupt associations with worldy men, we are called away.

Thirdly, through the selfish passions and oppressive conduct of men, through the numerous troubles which beset this vale of tears, the pilgrim can find no rest on earth. It is a relief to think of departing to that world where "the wicked cease from troubling," and where "the weary" are "at rest." How cheering the sound, "Arise ye, and depart." Come, my children, enter into your everlasting chambers. Escape to that "rest" which "remaineth" for "the people of God."

From these different views we may consider ourselves called upon to turn our backs on the world and to set our faces towards heaven, by all the following considerations.

I. That this is not our home.
II. That the world cannot satisfy.
III. That an attempt to rest in it is sinful.
IV. That no alliance can be formed with the men of the world without hazard of pollution.
V. That no rest can be found in a world full of injustice and oppression. Nor yet,
VI. In a world inundated with the floods of affliction.

I. This is not our home. Our life is "as an hand-breadth." "Man that is born of a woman is of few days...He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." In the morning he looketh forward to life as a little eternity; but before he is aware his head is covered with the frost of age, and he is tottering on his withered limbs. And then when leaning upon his staff and countering the graves of the companions of his youth, he can feelingly pronounce that life "is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away." It is transient "as a tale that is told." It is "as a dream when one awaketh." Regular and rapid, like the waves of the sea, one generation sweeps off another into the gulf of oblivion. Where are they who filled the world with noise and strife, with fame and folly, half a century ago? and where, half a century to come, will be those who now fill the whole circle of human vision? Before they are aware their places will be vacant, to be filled with another generation as transient as themselves. Thus passes off the glory of the world. And where does the wave sweep them? Into that state of conscious being which is never to end,–which is fraught with bliss or agony beyond the imaginations of this infant world to conceive. Through fields of light or through floods of fire, they will look back to the time when they spent a few moments on a little particle of dust called earth, which, millions of ages since, has sunk in the general conflagration. Even then their eternity will be but just begun. And when, from that remote point, they remember how attached they once were to this world, how they regarded it in a sense as their final rest, and placed it higher than that eternal state, how will they stand amazed at their folly. This is but the threshold of your being, and all before you is a boundless eternity. Why then are your affections lingering here? Why are your calculations bounded by the present world? Had not sin entered, this world might have been your happy home for many years, till exchanged by a translation to the empyreal heavens. But since the tragedy of Eden brought death into the world, how vain to linger, for a resting-place, about these mortal shores. A voice from heaven breaks in upon our frenzied dreams, "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest."

II. The world cannot satisfy. Never were the things of the world intended to fill the human mind. In the original formation of man he received a capacity which nothing but God could fill; and through by the fall he lost his relish for God, the same capacity still remains, and all creation cannot fill it now. While his mind remained pure, however, he was able to enjoy the good things of the world to a perfect degree. No restless longing, no perplexing care, no throb of envy, no collision of interest, no pang of disappointment, hung around the pursuit or possession of worldly good. His mind, kept in order by the dominant love of God, held the creature in its proper place, and could enjoy, without mixture, all that it contained. But since the creature assumed the place of God, it has become, as all idols must, an instruments of pain. Withered by the curse of God yet sought with inordinate desire and expectation, it turns to unsavoury ashes upon the palate, plants thorns of disappointment in the heart, and proves its name and its nature to be "vanity and vexation of spirit."

Many minds, broken loose from their centre, have wandered in search of rest in the creature; but none have ever found it. Wealth says, It is not in me; honour and pleasure say, It is not in me. Instead of rest there is wretchedness whenever the attempt is made. The man who surpassed in wealth, as he did in wisdom, all the other kings of Israel, had the fairest opportunity to try the experiment. He drained the creature to the dregs; and when he had drunk it off he wrote upon the goblet this label for the admonition of future ages, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." The most effectual way to turn the sweets of creature comforts into wormwood, is to seek to draw from them, what must be derived from God alone, the supreme happiness of an immortal mind.

Thus sin and the curse have ruined that enjoyment of the creature which was originally intended. Why then search for satisfaction where it is not to be found? "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."

III. An attempt to rest in the creature is sinful. The first command is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." To make a god of any thing, is to set the heart supremely upon it and to attempt to rest in it as a chief source of happiness. To love "the creature more than the Creator" and to look to that for our chief comfort, is to idolize the creature, and is a breach of the first and great command. Hence the declaration, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." We may value the creature for the purposes for which it was given us; but there is not a man on earth who does not love the world too much. The chief current of selfishness sets this way: for inordinate self-love chiefly consists in overvaluing the happiness which results from the gratification of worldly propensities. While selfishness remains, the love of honour, wealth, and pleasure will hold too high a place in the heart; and we shall seek them with undue desire and reckon on them too much as essential parts of prosperity; our minds will too earnestly cleave to them and be too distracted with care about possessing them. This it is to rest in the creature; and this, in whatever degree it is indulged, is idolatry. It is the ruin of worldly men, and it is the besetting sin of Christians themselves. The only cure for it is to give a larger proportion of the heart to God: and this can be effected only by deep contemplations of God and earnest applications to Him for the Spirit. The evil consists in overvaluing our own separate happiness, in seeking a gratification which does not make a part of the general prosperity of God's kingdom, in searching for it out of God, in detaching ourselves from the universe and building ourselves up as a unit. Until men have taken an everlasting leave of the world and shut themselves up in a convent or in hell, the love of the world is the principal way by which they stray from God, the principal affection which takes the place of love to Him. It is the great road to perdition: or if the gate of hell is shut by the grace of God, it is the great road to darkness, temptation, and distress.

To attempt then to rest in the creature is to seek a guilty rest. It is to lie down in pollution. Wherefore then are your heart-strings so entwined about the world? Why cast yourselves down to sleep in the jakes? "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your" lawful "rest: because it is polluted."

IV. No alliance can be formed with the men of the world without hazard of pollution. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." A great part of the feelings, opinions, conversation, and customs of the world are opposed to the genuine spirit of the Gospel. They are such as are dictated by a heart under the supreme dominion of selfishness, unrelieved by anything better than the social affections and the faith and conscience of devils. Under the refining light of religion and science, the coarser excrescences may be lopped off and the form may be polished. Even an attitude may be taken to protect some of the general principles of Christianity. But after all, the life and soul of religion is excluded, and that with more overwhelming influence than though this garnished body had never been baptised. This is the world in its most imposing shape. In all other forms it is the open enemy of all religion, if not of all decorum. With such a world what alliance can be formed without polluting our minds and hazarding our salvation? A voice from heaven says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate,...and touch not the unclean thing." Ye "are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." I know an attempt is sometimes made to prove that the character of the world is changed by the introduction of Christianity, and to render a considerable part of the Bible inapplicable to the present day. But this arises from sheer ignorance of the character of man and the nature of regeneration. All who remain the world, in distinction from the truth Church, are the same in heart as though no Gospel had been sent. If they do not love God supremely, they are supremely attached to themselves, and of course are His enemies. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other." "He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." Those then who have not been raised to the supreme love of God remain as fully His enemies as though no Gospel had been given to men. Those of course who are the world, in distinction from the Church, retain still the character ascribed to the world in the New Testament. With that world it is hazardous to form any alliance. Conformity to them is death. Heaven itself has said, "Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Why then are you resting on the opinions of worldly men? Why are you so eager to catch their smiles? Why yielding yourselves up to those habits of pleasure which their practice has sanctioned? Why reaching after associations with them to the neglect of humble Christians?

V. No rest can be found in a world full of injustice and oppression. The collisions of selfish passions keep the world in a flame and drench it in blood.

"My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick with ev'ry day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is fill'd.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart:
It does not feel for man.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interposed
Make enemies of nations, who had else,
Like kindred drops, been mingled into one."

 Not nations only, but individuals in all the departments of life, act out this detestable temper. The complaint of the prophet may be applied to every age: "Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders. And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth." In a world where selfishness forms the supreme law, where love is an exotic, thinly scattered and of feeble growth, where hard-hearted hate and hard-handed oppression repel and crush and grind the feeble, where churlishness and envy and rivalship and jealousies sever the bands of social life,–what rest can be found? But there is a world where rivalries never come, where selfish passion never sours, where envy and oppression and war can never enter, where a man finds a brother in every one he meets, where justice and honour and love and tenderness govern every heart, every action, every feature and look. Why will you linger so long among scorns and abuses? Why cleave to this hard-hearted world as though your feet grew to the soil? Come away, ye lambs of Christ, from the jaws of the lion and the bear, and enter into the heavenly fold. Will you seek to rest among enemies when there is such a world of tenderness to receive you? "There" your "best friends," your "kindred dwell, there God" your "Saviour reigns." Will you choose this for your home, where you timid spirits have only to tremble and weep? Turn your backs on this den of thieves, and enter the portals of that blessed city where all is the sweetest harmony and love.

VI. No rest can be found in a world inundated with the floods of affliction. Ever since sin entered, this world has been a vale of tears, a house of correction, to break stubborn spirits to submission, to drive wayward children to obedience by the rod, to humble the proud, and to discover God's severity against sin. It is appointed us "through much tribulation" to "enter into the kingdom of God." "In the world" we "shall have tribulation." This is the suffering time of the Church, the wilderness through which they must pass to the heavenly rest, the long, tiresome desert full of serpents and enemies, and in which is no water. Here "moth" corrupts and "thieves break through and steal." Here they have to drag about a weak and aching body. Here their heart-strings are often broken in the dying chambers of their friends.

"Why should this world delight us so?
Why should we fix our eyes
On these low grounds where sorrows grow
and every pleasure dies?"

Are we confined to this? Has infinite love provided nothing better? Has God prepared no habitation in His wide domains more worthy to be the object of our aspiring hopes? Lift up your eyes and see.

"There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand drest in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between."

Why then should we wish to continue here? Why should we thrust ourselves down among the briers and thorns? Why are we so unwilling to go away to everlasting peace? Do we not know that these afflictions were introduced by sin? The world is full of trouble because it is unclean. This argument too is pressed home by the same voice from heaven. "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted."

To these arguments, drawn from the text, it may be added, that Christians themselves are distressed with many sins. And will you seek a rest among your own pollutions? Before you lies a world of everlasting purity. Will you not arise and reach after that? Here the face of your heavenly Father is but little seen, and you are frequently called to mourn an absent God. But there you will see Him face to face without an interposing cloud to eternity. Will not this thought break your slumbers? Will you not from this hour take your hearts and hopes from earth and lodge them in the heaven of heavens? You do not belong here: you are citizens of another country. Break loose from this enchanted ground. Direct your eye immovably towards your inheritance, and press towards that glorious mark. Soon will you be far away from earth and enter among the glories of the upper world. Forget your idols, forget your father's house, and bend all your thoughts to immortality. And then your "light affliction, which is but for a moment," shall work for you "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Amen.


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